Extant one-room schoolhouses in New England are scarce, so whenever I stumble upon one, I always stop and take a photo! This little schoolhouse in Canterbury, Connecticut was built around 1850 near the village green, and provided schooling for the rural town center’s children for about 100 years until it closed after WWII. In 1947, the modern, Dr. Helen Baldwin School opened in town, forcing many smaller, outdated one-room schools to close. After this, many were either demolished or adapted to other uses. The Canterbury Green Schoolhouse was adapted to the town’s public library. The building later housed the town’s library until 2001, when a new library building was constructed. In the 2000s, the Canterbury Historical Society and town volunteers gathered funds and restored the building to her former glory and appearance. The school is now occasionally open as a small museum for the town.
I was going through some images on my phone, and stumbled upon some Canterbury, CT buildings I never posted! This Federal style house was built around 1815 for Dr. Andrew Harris one of two physicians in Canterbury in the early 19th century. He was born in Rhode Island and lived on a farm until he took up in the medical profession. He was known throughout eastern Connecticut as one of the most distinguished operative surgeons in the state until his death at the young age of 53. The large home features a Palladian window above the entrance with some Victorian era alterations, including the front porch, elongated 2-over-2 windows at the ground floor, and double-door entry. Oh, and the house is across the street from the iconic Prudence Crandall House.
One of the most unique buildings on the grounds of the Harkness Estate has to be the most functional, the 1910 water tower. The structure was designed by architect James Gamble Rogers, a really under-appreciated architect who was commissioned by Edward and Mary Harkness to revamp their summer compound. The water tower features a skeletal frame with concrete block tower protecting it, surmounted by a shingled water tank which once had a functioning wind mill on it! Nearby the water tower, a garden designed by female landscape architect Beatrix Farrand frames the tower very well. In that garden sits a 110+ year old Japanese Thread Leaf Maple tree, which is probably the most beautiful tree I have ever seen.
On the sprawling grounds of the Harkness Estate (featured previously), this wood-frame home showcases the more human-scaled farmhouses that many in New England once had. The farmhouse was likely built in the middle of the 19th century and was used until the early 20th century when the farmland (and likely other surrounding coastal farms) were purchased and turned into the massive 237-acre estate. Interestingly, the Harkness Estate was used as a summer house for the Harkness family, but also as a ‘gentleman’s farm’. Gentleman’s Farms were an important element of the upper-class lifestyle in the Gilded Age as they served as formal summer mansions and working farms that often supplied produce and dairy products to the owners’ winter residences. The wide open spaces and ability to have a tranquil lifestyle was appealing to many who lived in dense urban centers for most of the year. While nearly all “gentleman farmers” had servants actually do all the work, they sure loved the idea of living on a farm. At its peak, the Harkness Estate with it’s prized herd of Guernsey cows, 65 employees, 35 of whom were year-round support staff. It is likely the lead farmer and family lived in this building, right in the center of the estate.
Eolia, the Harkness Estate, sits on the shoreline of Waterford, Connecticut and is significant as one of the most complete grand-scale, seaside estates in Connecticut. Similar to Seaside Sanatorium (featured previously), the Harkness Estate is another Connecticut State Park in the coastal town, but is quite opposite as the buildings and grounds are in much better condition and get use! The property was developed as a formal seasonal retreat and working farm in the early 1900s for William Taylor and Jessie Stillman, until it was purchased by Jessie’s sister Mary and her husband Edward Harkness soon after. Edward S. Harkness (1874-1940) spent most of his life managing, with his older brother Charles, a tremendous fortune built up by their father Stephen Harkness, who had had the foresight in 1870 to become John D. Rockefeller’s business partner by investing in the Standard Oil Company. Edward Harkness married Mary Stillman, daughter of wealthy New York attorney Thomas E. Stillman, in 1904. Mary’s maternal grandfather was Thomas S. Greenman, a shipbuilder in Mystic, Connecticut, who co-founded George Greenman & Co shipyard (now part of the Mystic Seaport Museum). As the centerpiece of this summer estate, the premier NY architectural firm of Lord & Hewlett, designed this stunning Renaissance Revival mansion which holds a whopping 42-rooms. Mary hired female landscape architect Beatrix Farrand to design the absolutely stunning gardens on the grounds. In 1918, Edward Harkness was ranked the 6th-richest person in the United States, and the couple decided to give away much of their wealth, including selling off some of their property in Waterford for Camp Harkness for children with polio. Mary and Edward were very private people who avoided public attention and acclaim, unlike many of the rich of today. Mary Harkness’s final gift, was written in her will, that her beloved estate Eolia, would be gifted to the State of Connecticut.
Stay tuned for some more buildings on this stunning estate!
The Beebe-Phillips house in Waterford, CT, was built in the 1830s by Orrin Beebe (though some accounts say it was built for his wife Lydia after his death), and is an excellent example of a traditional full-cape house in Connecticut. The home is a vernacular example of the Federal style with no frills or expensive details. The house was originally located elsewhere in town but was moved to its current site on Jordan Green in 1974 by the Waterford Historical Society, next to the Jordan Schoolhouse.
The last stop we will see at the stunning Seaside Sanatorium campus in Waterford, Connecticut is the former Superintendent’s Residence. Built in 1936, the home is elegantly sited at the waterfront, which would have provided amazing views for the man in charge of running Seaside, the Tuberculosis hospital for children here. Like the Maher Building, Nurse’s Residence, and Duplex Residence previously featured, this building was designed in the Tudor Revival style and is also credited as a work of architect Cass Gilbert. The Superintendent’s Residence is interesting as it has two completely different facades. The campus-facing facade features an L-shape with a garage wing and projecting entry pavilion in stone. Above, a diamond-pane window would allow natural light into what may be the stairhall. At the waterfront, a large open porch (since boarded up) and large windows at the first floor, would provide natural light and air into the building, along with amazing views of Long Island Sound. Additionally, a catslide roof extends from the rightmost bay and covers a recessed porch with basketweave brickwork above. I would for sure live here, could you?
One of the most entrancing and clearly haunted places in Connecticut is the Seaside Sanatorium on the coast of Waterford, CT. It’s founding dates back to the early 1900s, when tuberculosis killed 252 of every 100,000 people living in the state, making it the leading killer in the state early in the century. When Connecticut Tuberculosis Commission members, including Chairman Dr. Stephen J. Maher, a New Haven physician, began hearing of success in Europe with exposure not only to ocean air, but to strong sunlight, they began pushing for a new location in Connecticut to treat children with tuberculosis. The first Seaside was established in Niantic in 1918, which was outgrown, and a newer, modern facility on the coast was needed. The State found a site on the coast of Waterford and hired world-renowned architect Cass Gilbert to design the complex in the Tudor Revival style, a departure from the Colonial or Classic Revival styles favored at the time for such projects. When the facility opened, children would spend as much time as possible exposed to the sun’s rays as part of their treatment here. They played sports, took lessons, ate, read, and played music outside year-round, either on the beach, the lawns, or the three levels of south-facing porches. By the early to mid-1950s, tuberculosis became curable with antibiotics that required limited bed rest and could be given in a regular hospital setting. After its use as a TB facility ceased, the state re-opened Seaside as a hospital for people with mental illness, which too closed in the 1990s. The massive campus has sat vacant since, rotting away as a State Park. Apparently the State has been looking for a developer to revitalize the campus as a hotel or other use, but sadly, nothing has materialized.
This gorgeous stone house was built circa 1877 by Phillip M. Powers (1814-1889), who served as President of the Millstone granite quarry in Waterford, Connecticut. The home is said to have been built off an earlier 1700s home, but all was constructed in ashlar granite to showcase Mr. Powers’ quality stone. It is said that Phillip went bankrupt not long after the construction of this home. In 1930, the house was purchased by Beatrice H. Rosenthal and her husband. Ms. Rosenthal served as both a delegate and as a committeewoman of the Democratic National party, and a staunch advocate for women’s rights. She was also active in women’s educational institutions around New England. The old home and barn are now available for rentals for events or overnight stays.
Waterford was once part of New London, but it separated in 1801 as the area desired its own town government which took agricultural interests more seriously. In the 19th century, much of the town’s economy was centered around agriculture, with many residents running sheep farms. During the 20th century, sheep farms were replaced by dairy farms. Between 1920 and 1960, there were about 100 dairy farms in Waterford. After WWII, suburbanization occurred and many wealthy residents of nearby New London moved to Waterford for more space. The oldest surviving public building in Waterford, Connecticut is this Colonial-era schoolhouse which was likely built in the 1730s. The Jordan Schoolhouse was built as a rural schoolhouse as farmers wanted their children to be taught writing, reading, arithmetic, and religion, even if they followed their parent’s footsteps in farming. The gambrel-roofed Georgian building was used as a school until the mid-19th century and it was converted to a private home for Asa and Eliza Gallup and their family. The schoolhouse was eventually moved to its current site on Jordan Green in 1972 and is operated as a museum space for the Waterford Historical Society.